Take steps to maximize your gifts and set up your future

History tells us that women are seen as emotional, flighty and often hesitant to accept roles with more responsibility than they have at the time. We are seen as afraid to take risks, be assertive, speak up, demand respect and offer new ideas in the workplace. I am happy to report, those days are long gone.

Below are seven helpful tips for increasing your chances of rising to a significant leadership role in your career and your organization.

Identify an internal organizational mentor. Selecting an executive (male or female) in your organization to serve as your mentor is critical to career success. This individual’s role is not only to advise you but to speak on your behalf when you are not in the room. This person can recommend you for advancement, promotions, management programs, professional/career development and training and special projects where you can expand your skillset and gain additional exposure. This relationship should be mutually beneficial and should not take a lot of the mentor’s time. Simply establish a monthly meeting time and location.

Invest in your own development. Take every opportunity to attend professional leadership development conferences, workshops and retreats, at your own expense if necessary. If you offer to pay your own registration fees, many companies will give you the time off, with pay, to attend these activities. This is a fair exchange. Also consider joining professional and industry associations that offer free training. 

Volunteer for special projects. Let it be known that you are interested in working on special projects within the organization. This would give you significant exposure and expand your internal network and relationships. You can showcase your special skills and offer an additional perspective on issues being addressed during special projects.

Always follow up and meet deadlines. Never, ever fail to follow up on contacts, promises or assignments in the workplace. Your professional reputation and brand depend on it. Even in the community, it is important to protect your reputation. A good reputation management strategy is to under promise, and over deliver, early.

Define and embrace your leadership style. Know your own leadership style and how others in your organization perceive you. Are you an inclusive, assertive and encouraging leader? Are you a leader who puts staff and/or team out front and acknowledges and rewards their successes? These are important questions to ask yourself.

Assess your professional brand. Good leaders will often take the temperature of the organization to see how they are perceived internally. Engaging with others will allow you to address any shortcomings and strengthen your leadership style and brand.

Network with people at the level you wish to attain. Spending time with people who have already attained success at various levels in the organization is equally as important. Observe and evaluate their leaderships styles and assess if you need to retool your own style.

In summary, I offer the following final observation: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” This applies to your life and your career.

Alexandria Johnson Boone is president and CEO at GAP Communications Group